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In a Down Economy, These Three Furniture Retailers Are Growing

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 150 NO. 4 July/August


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In a down economy, these three furniture retailers are growing

 

Not all Home Furnishings Association members are hunkering down in the current economy. Some are thriving with appointment-only sales. Others are doing well with e-commerce. And a select few, like Mandy Jeffries of Colfax Furniture, are expanding their company footprints.

Colfax Furniture Expands

Jeffries opened a third Colfax store in Burlington, North Carolina, about 27 miles from the family-owned flagship store in Greensboro. The timing was bad. Three days after she signed the lease in March, the state shut down.

But the massive 90,000-square-foot store has been doing well since opening in June, mostly with foot traffic from a nearby Northern Tool + Equipment store in the same shopping complex. “We haven’t even run any grand opening ads, and business is strong,” Jeffries said in early July. “I think it’s only going to get better when word gets out.”

Jeffries had been looking at the property ever since Burlington Coat Factory moved out in 2018 for a newer building. She signed a five-year lease with an option of pulling out after the third year. Mandy and her mother, Gail Jeffries, spent most of the coronavirus shutdown moving furniture from the company’s warehouse in Greensboro to the spacious new showroom. How long does it take to fill a 90,000-square-foot building with furniture? Jeffries laughed. “Longer than I thought. It was good exercise, but I’m glad it’s over.”

Actually, it’s just beginning for Colfax’s new store. Jeffries is looking for new employees. In the past, she’s relied on her connections in Greensboro to fill store openings, but the Burlington store is in its own market. “That’s making it tough,” she said. “We’re looking at restaurants and already established retail for people. It’s all a little new to me finding people.”

Another problem for Colfax is inventory. Because Colfax is so close to High Point Market, Jeffries gets as much as 70 percent of her inventory from manufacturers at market who want to move their samples. The canceled High Point markets pinched her source. “It’s made things tough, but we are OK for now,” she said.

Sheely's Growth Initiative

Colfax isn’t alone in growing during a downturn in the economy. After 68 years as a single-store business, Sheely’s Furniture and Appliance will expand its footprint in September when it opens a second store in Aurora, Ohio, about 30 miles outside Cleveland. The new location was part of Sheely’s initiative for growth and further expansion into the Cleveland market. The plan has been in the works for nearly two years.

Jeffries opened a third Colfax store in Burlington, North Carolina. The timing was bad; three days after she signed the lease in March, the state shut down.

Jeff Curry, Sheely’s general manager and one of three principal owners, said there was never any doubt about continuing with the new store during the pandemic. “We’ve been committed to this for more than a year and the numbers have always looked good,” he said.

A grand opening is scheduled for September 7-19, 2020.

Jessica Smith, buyer and another principal owner, is excited about the opening. “As a third-generation Sheely’s family member, I’m honored to usher in this new era for Sheely’s along with my principal partners, our 150 employees and stakeholders."

Expanding into a new market in the middle of a global pandemic and recession wasn't what company leaders expected when they started this initiative. But Smith and others are confident the new store will succeed. The new location features 80,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse space, with areas dedicated to Sheely’s mix of furniture, appliances, mattresses, décor and Warehouse Outlet. The store will feature some of the brands that Sheely’s customers are familiar with, as well as new lines. “This location provides us the opportunity to welcome new brands into our core offerings," said Lance Romeo, buyer and the third principal. "Our buyers are currently working on creating that new mix of products, which we believe will be something exciting for customers both old and new."

Skandinavia Contemporary Moves & Renovates

Skandinavia Contemporary Interiors in Austin, Texas, reopened for business on Memorial Day after two months sitting on the sidelines.

Shawn and Erika Olsen closed their store on Shoal Creek Boulevard in March, a couple of years after ownership of their building changed hands and they were told that renewing their lease would cost a lot more. They had plenty of time to scout for new opportunities, and “We found what we hope is a much better location,” Shawn Olsen said.

It’s about 10 miles south of their former store and a bit closer to downtown. It’s also near the intersection of two highways, an area that sees “a lot of traffic in normal times.”

Of course, these are still not normal times after Texas was one of the first states to fully reopen earlier this summer only to pull back after a new surge in coronavirus cases.

The doors were shut for a little longer than anticipated. The Olsens were doing a “build out” and renovation of their new building. But work was halted for a couple of weeks during the shutdown, and other delays pushed the reopening to Memorial Day.

Olsen kept all his employees on the payroll, even though there was little work for them to do. Now, the new store—24,000 square feet, compared to 15,000 at the old location—is operating at regular hours. “Business and foot traffic is on par with last year in our old location, and we are pleased with that, considering everything,” Shawn Olsen said after the Fourth of July weekend.

Before the public health crisis, Austin was one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and “it will pop up OK,” Olsen said. The store is next to Central Market, a top-rated grocer, according to Olsen. People who shop there also buy home furnishings like those sold by Skandinavia Contemporary Interiors, which was founded in 1971 to feature designs inspired by the Danish modern movement. It carries collections by American Leather, Copeland, BDI and Ekornes.

So, this might be a good time to open a bigger store and to count on bigger spending on home furnishings. On the other hand, Olsen admitted there is still some uncertainty in an altered environment.


 

About HFA: The Home Furnishings Association is the only trade association dedicated to the success of furniture retailers. For more information on HFA membership and services for home furnishings retailers visit https://myhfa.org or call 800.422.3778

 

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